PORT OF SPAIN –– Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley plans to give direct attention to the reintroduction of community policing as a way of more effectively dealing with Trinidad and Tobago’s crime problem.
In his address at the People’s National Movement’s (PNM) 46th annual convention at the Queen’s Park Savannah Sunday, he said while his administration is committed to the development and growth of all citizens, “sadly all is not well”. Dr Rowley admitted that the nation is still being “confronted with the nagging state of crime and lawlessness which has been poisoning our environment and undermining our gains”.
However, he said, citizens must be practical and accept there are no quick fixes to the problem: “We just have to steer the course, making the necessary corrections, until we finally succeed in rooting out this scourge.”
Rowley told party officials and supporters at the event he was being brutally honest when he said billions had been spent on crime over the past two decades without the expected results.
“There is too much confusion, dysfunctional and outright failure at the many levels at the top to expect the best from the middle and at the base,” he said, referring to the state of the police service.
“Imagine in this protracted and dire situation of runaway crime and criminality, I face tomorrow morning not knowing who is, or who will be in charge of the police service and I am head of the national security council.
“The fact that the [Police Service] Commission and the police senior ranks may not know should tell you why we are underperforming in our necessary response to the criminal element,” he said.
Rowley said it is “taking too long for us to reap the benefits of all our investments” and he is convinced “the solution goes beyond the wealth of resources placed at the disposal of our law enforcement officers”.
He added: “There also seems to be a continuous stream of desensitised citizens for whom death and destruction is an ordinary’s day work and there is a small but deadly minority who choose crime as a way of life to the extent that there are criminals walking among us.”
The prime minister said it is time to “take a fresh look at the model of policing which we have been practising over the years” as well as “for the causative factors to be engaged in the national discourse with a view to finding lasting solutions to this growing cancer which threatens to destroy all of us”.
He said he has heard the cries of citizens for a solution to the crime problem.
“It is a legitimate, genuine and justifiable call but this partnering will not occur in a vacuum,” he said.
Rowley said the institutional framework must be put in place to make it happen and work. He said community-oriented policing will be embraced more convincingly and the police marine branch will be resuscitated “to do specific close in shore work to attack contrabands and smuggling of people, arms and ammunition”.
As chairman of the National Security Council, Rowley said he has received “reassuring perspectives on how community-oriented policing can be optimised in the context of the current levels of criminality on a daily basis”.
He admitted to feeling “the national pain and anguish all too frequently from family members who are subjected to this all too frequent horror”.
Rowley added that he is serving notice of his intention to work in close collaboration with the Minister of National Security on community policing.
“I propose to take a direct interest in overseeing a comprehensive review of the way in which community policing functions are introduced within the police service of T&T,” he said, adding that the full benefits of that mechanism had not been utilised.
He said if the root causes of crime are to be addressed, “modern day police officers are required to sit around the table with genuine influential business, cultural, social and youth leaders and benefit from the wealth of knowledge, experience, wisdom and understanding of their local communities”.
“The community policing patterning philosophy must permeate all aspects of the police service,” he said. “It is a call to volunteerism as well, to serve to save our country.”
Rowley said he planned to discuss with National Security Minister Edmund Dillon the merits of embarking on a nationwide crime prevention education and mobilisation programme throughout the local government and involving all segments of the national community.
He said primary school pupils and others will be given an opportunity to become involved and “share their views and ideas in the search for solutions to this crime menace in their local neighbourhood”.
The highlight of Sunday’s convention was the launch of the PNM’s campaign for the November 28 local government elections.
The party’s 137 candidates were presented to the large crowd of party members and supporters.